In the best novels the leading characters undergo a transformation that moves the plot of the book as it creates connections between readers and characters. On Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss novels where character transformation is achieved, where it fails, when it’s believable, and how it effects the ending. Joining us in the #litchat salon on Friday, February 15 is novelist Jojo Moyes, whose new novel, Me Before You, challenges character transformation in unexpected ways.
Combine a repressed, out-of-work waitress with a boring, self-absorbed boyfriend and put her as a caretaker for a handsome, rich, self-absorbed quadriplegic and you have Me Before You. Sounds pretty predictable, doesn’t it? Well it is. Up to a point. Louisa (better known as Lou) falls in love with her charge, and he with her—the predictable part—but the bittersweet ending blows this story from the predictability pit.
It all comes down to this. Although he’s recovered physically as well as a quadriplegic can after being hit by a motorcycle two years prior, Will is addicted to a sexy lifestyle, extreme adventures and high-stakes finance. Although there’s no reason why he can’t go back to work buying and selling companies and making oodles of money, he secludes himself within a handicap-equipped bungalow behind his parents’ house. Although he has tons of money to spend on extreme disability sports and adventures, he mopes around while reliving his action-adventure exploits. Although he has more wealth and security than the average quadriplegic, he makes a life-vs-suicide pact with his parents, agreeing to give semi-independent life as a quadriplegic six months before seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland.
Lou is the catalyst to Will’s situation. Hired to be a companion and caretaker, Lou plunges right in with activities designed to relight the fire in Will’s life. When she learns of the life-vs-suicide pact, she pushes the boundaries of her own self-repression in order to change Will’s mind about suicide. Soon Lou herself becomes Will’s project. At Will’s urging, she begins reading good books, watching foreign films, listening to classical music—and enjoying it. She overcomes her aversion to libraries, discovers some online disability forums where she gleans insights about care-taking and how to help Will re-engage with life.
Readers will remember the twisty ending long after closing the covers of Me Before You.
Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typist of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30 she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992 She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University, and apart from 1994 when she worked in Hong Kong for the Sunday Morning Post, she worked at The Independent for ten years, including stints as Assistant news editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.
She has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. She lives on a farm in Essex with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.
Follow Jojo Moyes on Twitter: @JojoMoyes.
Photo of Jojo Moyes © Phyllis Christopher.